Fashion models, fastidiously groomed men with buff bodies, thriving art and music scenes — Miami’s South Beach is like an uberstylish after party.

This story first appeared in the December 11, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

It’s no wonder A|X Armani Exchange feels right at home. So much so that the company has more than doubled the size of its flagship at 760 Collins Avenue to 6,200 square feet, making it one of the largest A|X units in the U.S. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and mayoral proclamation designating “Armani Exchange Day” is set for today and the expanded store is opening Saturday.

Smaller A|X stores resemble modern urban discos with curtains of glimmering shards dangling from the ceiling that change color as they catch the light. The flagship is the first U.S. unit to display the new A|X retail concept, which launched in London and Tokyo two years ago. Known in-house as X4, the retail design is being rolled out around the world and plays on the idea of contrasts — between dark and light, smooth and rough and shiny and matte.

An enhanced sound system with DJs every weekend, a 25-foot video wall and illuminated graphics from the A|X advertising campaign create a “moody, dramatic feel,” said Tom Jarrold, senior vice president of global communications for Armani Exchange. “It’s Armani’s take on the nightclub experience.”

A futuristic addition, made of steel and glass, towers over the original store’s classic Miami Art Deco neon logo facade. “For us it’s a huge store, one of the biggest in the country,” Jarrold said. “Miami, and this store specifically, represents the soul of the A|X brand.”

An expanded collection of clothing, accessories, footwear, eyewear, watches, jewelry and music will be available. “You can buy swimwear, shorts, T-shirts, flip-flops and the perfect beach dress year round,” Jarrold said. He declined to discuss sales volume, but said: “It’s historically very strong. It’s one of our best stores in the U.S.”

A|X has occupied the same stretch of Collins Avenue since 1992, when retail along the thoroughfare was undeveloped and the street had a certain louche quality. Collins Avenue has since become fertile fashion ground with Guess, United Colors of Benetton, Club Monaco, Intermix, Polo Ralph Lauren Sport and Giroux, among others.

Reflecting Miami’s penchant for a party, Jarrold said the flagship “has always been an events store. For New Year’s, we’ll have model castings in the store, [and] the [Miami] Music Conference in March is a huge time for us. We tap into the event culture in Miami.”

Jarrold described customers as “fast paced, international, cosmopolitan, multicultural and, above all, modern. Miami is a huge tourist destination [for] European and Latin tourists. It’s a city that enjoys its night life and music.”

Graphics and videos will be beamed at night onto the exterior walls of the nearby Delano Hotel. By day, planes will tow 50-by-100-foot banners over the beach to promote the store. “It’s a clean, beautiful graphic and a captive audience,” Jarrold said.

In addition, street teams will distribute fliers detailing several promotions. For example, the first 200 people to visit the store on Saturday will receive gift cards of $25 to $1,000. Shoppers who spend $100 will get a gift-with-purchase of a pair of sunglasses.

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